With Tuesday night's 76-70 loss to Baylor, BYU's NIT run is done, but in reaching the tournament semifinals at Madison Square Garden, the Cougars not only altered perception in the present, but inspired hope for the future.
For Dave Rose's team, the phrase "Final Four" represented more than a trip to New York City. The Cougars final four games of the season offered a glimpse of the 2012-13 squad's true potential, and allowed some of 2013-14's most important players to shine on a big stage.
MANHATTAN — For the first time in 47 years, the BYU Cougars will be playing postseason basketball at Madison Square Garden, a venue head coach Dave Rose calls "the mecca of college basketball, or basketball itself."
BYU meets Baylor on Tuesday night at MSG in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament, an event the school won in 1951 and again in 1966.
In a Monday press conference at New York City's Marriott Marquis, Rose said "at BYU, the NIT is extremely special."
The BYU Cougars practiced outside on Monday as they began their final week of spring football.
Head coach Bronco Mendenhall said the team's effort during Monday's practice was "strong." He also mentioned that the offensive execution was farther ahead at this point that he thought it would be.
On the day the BYU Football team held its annual spring game, the Cougar hoopsters held their final Provo practice of the 2012-13 season.
Bronco Mendenhall's team separated into East and West teams (by sideline) for a 65-play exercise that featured few projected first-stringers, but showcased an up-tempo offense that was clicking off plays every 12-18 seconds--incorporating offensive coordinator Robert Anae's 'hard and fast' mantra.
Four touchdowns were scored: a Jamaal Williams run, a Tanner Mangum scamper, a Terenn Houk reception and a Paul Lasike rumble to end the scrimmage.
The BYU Cougar hoopsters are in Hattiesburg, Miss., one win away from a trip father east, to New York City and the NIT semifinals.
40 minutes of play against Southern Miss are all that separate the Cougars and one of sport's grandest stages, underscoring the distance BYU has already traveled in closing a pervasive gap between potential and performance.
It was less than three weeks ago that the Cougars trudged off the floor at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, having lost in their West Coast Conference tournament opener — a third loss in four games and a fifth loss in eight games at the end of the season, to that point.
Due to the un-springlike weather we're experiencing, the BYU Cougars held Friday's practice inside the indoor practice facility.
As the Cougars wrapped up Week 3 of spring ball, head coach Bronco Mendenhall said Friday's practice was designed to be lighter since the team has been going so hard and injuries are catching up. The Cougars practice in just helmets and shorts.
On the day that Atlantic Sun tournament champion Florida Gulf Coast stunned Georgetown in the NCAA tournament, BYU prepared for an NIT Second Round game against the team that topped FGCU for the Atlantic Sun regular season crown.
The Mercer Bears won their league title by a game over Florida Gulf Coast, but lost to the Eagles in the conference tourney title game. Relegated to the NIT, the Bears won at Tennessee in their NIT opener on Wednesday; next up, a Monday game at BYU, which advanced with a win over Washington last Tuesday.
The BYU Cougars have their NIT Second Round marching orders, scheduled to host Mercer Monday night at 7:00 p.m. in the Marriott Center.
The region's 7 seed, Mercer staged a road upset on Wednesday night, comfortably dispatching 2 seed Tennessee by a score of 75-67. The regular-season champs from the Atlantic Sun conference recorded their second road win over an SEC team, having earlier won at Alabama. Mercer also has an away victory at Florida State on its 2012-13 portfolio.
The Bears' schedule also includes three road losses to teams ranked 270th or worse in RPI, and two setbacks at altitude, having dropped games at New Mexico (76-58) and Denver (69-40). Mercer is among the slowest-tempo and lowest-scoring teams in the country, and has scored fewer than 50 points in a game six times during the season, with a low of 36 points in a neutral-court loss to Illinois-Chicago.
PROVO — BYU head coach Dave Rose is included in a new ESPN "30 for 30" documentary about Jim Valvano and his 1983 national championship as the coach of N.C. State—a team that beat Rose's Houston Cougars in the title game. The name of the documentary is "Survive and Advance," which has dual meaning, relative to Valvano's life-claiming battle with cancer. As it turned out, the show's TV debut was actually concurrent with Sunday night's NIT selection show, which revealed that Rose's BYU Cougars would be playing in that tournament.
The BYU Cougars began Week 3 of spring ball on Monday. Once again, the Cougars practiced outside, taking advantage of the spring weather.
Overall, offensive coordinator Robert Anae was pleased with the effort, but knows there's still along way to go. "I'd say we're headed in the right direction," Anae said. "It's not because a lack of effort; they're trying, but the effort needs to be faster and it's need to be harder."
On the eve of his team's NIT meeting with Washington, BYU head coach Dave Rose said that forward Josh Sharp--who started 22 of 32 games this season--is a question mark for Tuesday night's game with an Achilles tendon injury.
Rose said Sharp was injured during a practice last week, and is listed as 'day-to-day.' Sharp was in a walking boot and did not practice today.
PROVO — Seven years after BYU last played in the NIT, the Cougar hoopsters are back in that tournament field.
Sunday night, almost three hours after the NCAA Tournament bids were handed out, BYU was awarded an NIT berth and a valued home game as a three seed, matched up with the University of Washington. BYU will host the sixth-seeded Huskies Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. MT, in the Marriott Center.
On a 60-degree day in Provo, the BYU football team held its fifth practice of spring ball, and its second outdoors session of the week.
After practice, head coach Bronco Mendenhall met with the media and said "I think we're making progress; we're certainly pushing them really hard, we're demanding a lot of work, getting a lot of volume in a very short amount of time...really high intensity, super-fast tempo."
"The offense is progressing very, very quickly, (with) still a lot of work to go. (There's) equality in terms of players (and) how hard they're working in position groups, and coaches are pushing the players, really, really hard. So, I'm really encouraged by what I've seen to this point."
PROVO — BYU's one-and-done exit from the West Coast Conference Championships signaled the end of two record-setting streaks for the program: after six consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, and wins in three consecutive Big Dances, the Cougars will not see their name in the field of 68 on Selection Sunday.
Following his team's Friday night loss to San Diego in Las Vegas, head coach Dave Rose said "this is not just one loss. This is one of those losses where you realize that a lot of what you really worked six months for, is not going to happen." What should happen, after the NCAA Tournament field is filled, is an invitation for BYU to continue its season in the NIT.
The return of a hoopster to the gridiron and the naming of a new coach were items coming out of BYU's fourth practice of spring ball on Monday--the first day with the team outdoors.
Defensive end Bronson Kaufusi made his first appearance of the spring after missing last week while he remained with his BYU basketball teammates. With the hoopsters on semi-hiatus awaiting their postseason destination, Kaufusi was back on the field and taking his regular spot at the end of the line.
BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall called Wednesday's practice, "just as spirited, (with) probably more work done in this one than even the first one. They're responding really well; I like their attitude, I like their work ethic and they're getting a ton done."
Unfortunately, the biggest story coming out of BYU's second practice of spring was word that JC cornerback Trenton Trammell tore his ACL on Monday and will miss the 2013 season. Trammell will undergo surgery on March 14th.
LAS VEGAS — It has been a long time since BYU last won its conference's postseason tournament. The year was 2001, when BYU knocked off New Mexico to capture the Mountain West Conference tourney title, securing an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Looking back 12 seasons and comparing the 2000-01 season to the 2012-13 campaign, a number of coincidental occurrences appear. They may be merely trivial, but if the Cougars are looking to catch lightning in a bottle, they need look no further than 2001 for some cosmic inspiration.
Locale: In both 2001 and 2013, it's Vegas, baby.
BYU basketball head coach Dave Rose previewed West Coast Conference tournament week during Tuesday night's KSL Newsradio broadcast of Rose's weekly show at Legends Grille.
Senior Craig Cusick also came on to talk about his BYU career and the challenge ahead for the Cougars.
You can hear the entire broadcast in "Cougar Cuts," to the left.
The West Coast Conference announced its postseason honorees today, with BYU's Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws earning all-league recognition, while Gonzaga center Kelly Olynyk and head coach Mark Few headlined the annual award winners.
Today's selections make it 16 straight seasons that BYU has at least one player named to an all-conference team (1st, 2nd or 3rd team WAC/MWC or All-WCC).
Salt Lake Community College scoring leader Skyler Halford verbally committed to Dave Rose and the BYU Basketball program on Monday, bolstering next season's team with a shooter who earned Region 18 regular season and tournament MVP honors in 2012-13.
A 6'1", 180 lb. combo guard who prepped at Timpanogos High School, Halford began his college career at Utah State as a preferred walk-on, redshirting the 2008-09 season. Following an LDS mission to Brazil, Halford enrolled at SLCC, intending to eventually return to Utah State on scholarship. When those plans never materialized, he opened up the recruiting process, and ultimately chose BYU from among a number of schools, including West Coast Conference foes San Diego and Portland.
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